Skip to main content

IP203 Anarchism and the Practice of History

Dr Mike Finn
Module Leader
Term 2
10 weeks

Moodle Platform »

This module is not running in 2017/18

Principal Aims

Anarchism and the practice of history introduces undergraduates to the relationship anarchist political philosophy and activism has to history as written and practised in the contemporary world. Anarchism, as a political philosophy promoting ‘theories of spontaneous order’ (Ward) and non-hierarchical organisation, problematises some of the central concerns of the historical discipline, including state, nation and society. In turn, anarchist thought is historically situated and draws on a particular historical vocabulary of its own, whilst anarchist practice – often disconnected from anarchist theory – manifests history-making in new and innovative ways. Examining the relationship between anarchism (broadly defined) and history (broadly defined) allows for a richer understanding of both.

Principal Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have:

  • Acquired an in-depth understanding of key features and issues in anarchist social and political thought, including post-anarchism;
  • Acquired an in-depth understanding of key issues in historical epistemology and historical practice and engage in theoretical debates;
  • Examined the social and political problems associated with particular forms of history-making (academic, elite, popular);
  • Developed an ability to critically examine and critique historical narratives and concepts and to interrogate the relationship between historical practice and the legitimation of the state;
  • Developed an ability to facilitate the generation of historical narratives and interpretations using a transdisciplinary approach through individual and small group research;
  • Developed an ability to critically assess the validity of historical knowledges produced through academic disciplines or anarchist practice.


I. The idea of anarchism and the idea of history

1. What is anarchism?
2. What is history?
3. Anarchism in history
4. Anarchism as history
5. Nation, state and society: Anarchism vs. history

II. Anarchism and the practice of history

6. Post-anarchism and historical ‘reality’
7. Myth, myth-making and popular memory
8. Practising anarcho-history (I): Evidence
9. Practising anarcho-history (II): Narrative
10. The end(s) of history

Reading List

I. The idea of anarchism and the idea of history

Carr, E. H., What is History? London: Penguin, 1990.
Chomsky, N., On Anarchism. London: Penguin, 2014.
Collingwood, R. G., The Idea of History. Oxford: OUP, 1994.
Evans, R., In Defence of History. London: Granta, 2001.
Fulbrook, M., Historical Theory. London: Routledge, 2002.
Jenkins, K., Rethinking History. London: Routledge, 2003.
Jun, N., Anarchism and Political Modernity. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.
Kinna, R., The Continuum Companion to Anarchism. London: Continuum, 2012.
Marshall, P., Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. London: 1992.
Ward, C., Anarchy in Action. London: Freedom Press, 1973.
Ward, C., Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: OUP, 2000.

II. Anarchism and the practice of history

Adams, M. S., Kropotkin, Read and the Intellectual History of British Anarchism: Between Reason and Romanticism. London: Palgrave, 2015.
Bakunin, M., God and the State. New York: Mother Earth, 1882.
Bourg, J., From Revolution to Ethics: May 1968 and Contemporary French Thought. Montreal: MQUP, 2007.
Foucault, M., The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Routledge, 2002.
Goldman, E., Living My Life. London: Penguin, 2006.
Purkis, J., and Bowen, J., Changing Anarchisms: Anarchist theory and practice in a global age. Manchester: MUP, 2004.
Rousselle D., and Evren, S. (eds)., Post-Anarchism: A Reader. London: Pluto, 2011.
Samuel, R. and Thompson, P., The Myths We Live By. London: Routledge, 1990.
Thompson, P., The Voice of the Past: Oral History. Oxford: OPUS, 2000.